Our goal is to advance the healing process of injured veterans and encourage them to assume power and responsibility for the success of their lives.

Whitefish Veterans Support Team History

     Our efforts were first conceived in 2007 by Steve Shea while attending a fundraising event for wounded veterans in New York City. Being blessed with a second home in Whitefish, Steve wanted to share that special place with special people so they could heal and reintegrate. It took two years to organize a grassroots movement in Whitefish and a partnership was born with some local veterans, the Wounded Warrior Project and Whitefish Mountain Resort.

46825_444685075601261_2077326299_n     Our first retreat hosted twelve severely injured veterans during the Winter Carnival of 2009. The early gang of volunteers included Steve and Christine Shea, Larry and Nancy LaRocque, David and Jeannine Trousdale and Kim and Jan Richards. Each had little or no experience with adaptive skiing, but a common vision to help those who had given so much for our country. By chance, Steve’s former rugby coach from West Point, now Lieutenant General Frank Kearney and his wife Betty Sue joined the effort.  Betty Sue quickly brought her perspective on working with injured veterans from her time spent visiting the troops and volunteering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

     2010 produced another successful winter retreat, but it also brought about an important evolution. When a service member is wounded or injured, tremendous stress is placed on family members who find themselves in new roles as a full-time supporters or caregivers. These family members are an integral part of a warrior's successful recovery. We doubled down and expanded our efforts to include family members / caregivers by hosting our first summer caregiver retreat.

IMG_0260-web-version     Those early years thrived on financial support from Steve’s rugby buddies, but one could argue it was a little too much Army / West Point centric. Throwing caution to the wind, in 2011 Dave Williams,  a Naval Academy graduate, joined the effort and became affectionately nicknamed the “lonely squid”. With diversity, our efforts matured and consolidated our support from the greater Whitefish community.

     In 2012 our winter and summer retreats received some national attention with articles in the New York Times and coverage by the Associated Press. More importantly, the bonds and experiences between volunteers, veterans and their families solidified and we began to see the return of some previous participants to the retreats, a natural continuation of the warrior transition support.

     In 2013 we did our last event with Wounded Warrior Project and partnered in 2014 with an organization named Team Red White and Blue as an interim step to forming our own 501(c)(3).  With close to 100 attendees through the years, we wanted to narrow our focus to be high touch and low volume with the veterans and their families to ensure every cent of donations were directed to the warrior and his or her family.  The Whitefish Veterans Support Team (WVST) was officially born. We had grown up.

Mark V cropped v2     Master Sergeant Mark Vomund spoke at our first WVST fundraising event. He had first visited four years prior and returned several times with his wife and their two children.  “The Whitefish community kind of took me in,” Vomund said. “This community is more than very generous people. When I first came here four years ago, I was learning to snowboard and this 10-year-old kid just stuck by me. Yesterday, I got to go hike a mountain with her. There’s something special here. This is part of our family’s rehabilitation process — the people who take time to remind us that we’re worth believing in.” That 10 year old was Steve’s youngest daughter Erin. She was lucky enough to grow up in a special place protected by some special people and get involved at a young age.


734844_432405900162512_365811479_n     WVST continues to grow like Erin. To enhance our capabilities we’ve recently formed alliances with the COMMIT Foundation to provide one-on-one transition assistance. The COMMIT Foundation's goal is to create opportunities for veterans by fostering mentorship, extending and growing networks, promoting familiar camaraderie, and inspiring and accelerating veterans into leadership roles, post-service. In addition, we have teamed up with the Kalispell Vet Center to provide counseling resources that are available at 300 community-based Vet Centers nationwide.

Board of Directors

 

Dave Williams, President

Contact Dave

Dave Williams is retired and living in Whitefish, Montana, having moved to the Flathead Valley after a high tech career in the Silicon Valley in California. He has been active in the community offering free high-tech business mentoring sessions for new and emerging technology companies. Dave also has immersed himself with Habitat for Humanity Flathead Valley, serving as President of the affiliate and is guiding the organization toward helping to eliminate substandard housing in the Flathead Valley. Dave hails from Pennsylvania, graduated from Annapolis, and served in the Navy.

 

Bret Luedke, Vice President

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Bret is a Montana native and Air Force veteran. He spent his career as an instructor, fighter and experimental test pilot with the Air Force and Lockheed Martin Corporation. After retiring to Whitefish, he became involved with several non-profits, Sparrow's Nest and Montana Wilderness Association, working to provide housing for unaccompanied homeless high school students and advocating for Montana's public lands. His passion is downhill skiing, but enjoys all the various outdoor activities the Flathead Valley has to offer.

 

Kim

Kim Richards, Treasurer

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Kim Richards is a full-time resident of Whitefish, having retired here in 2001, who enjoys skiing, hiking, camping, kayaking and fishing in the mountains and forests of Montana. Kim served in the Navy in the early 1970s before pursuing a career in law enforcement, while completing his military career in the Coast Guard Reserve. His wife Jan was creative director at a Chicago design firm, but is happy to be retired!

 

Mark Panicek, Secretary

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Mark has been a full-time resident of Whitefish since his retirement in 2009. Mark served 25 years on active duty as an aviator in the Army and Coast Guard, flying Blackhawks and C-130s. He enjoys the abundant opportunities for outdoor recreation in NW Montana; and if it's a powder day, you will always find Mark deep in the trees off Flower Point.

 

Larry Larocque BOD picture - cropped

Larry LaRocque

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Larry LaRocque spent more than thirty years in government service throughout the US and retired to Whitefish in 2004 to live the good life with his wife, Nancy. Larry works part-time at a local fly fishing shop (Nancy calls it a losing proposition). When not fly fishing, Larry enjoys cycling, rafting, hunting, hiking, skiing and volunteers his time teaching fly tying for a local school program. He is a former Army paratrooper and combat infantryman who served in Vietnam with the 82nd and 101st Airborne.

 

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Steve Shea

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Steve Shea is a part time resident of Whitefish and recently moved from the East Coast to Seattle, WA. Steve has a skiing addiction and manages to frequent the Bierstube with other sufferers. His lovely wife Christine supervises his childish behavior along with his three children – Thomas, Kelly & Erin. Steve enlisted in the Army in the early ‘80s, managed to find his way to West Point and then on to flight school before moving on to the business world.

Advisory Board

Peggy Brammer
Jim Berry
Betty Sue Kearney
Frank Kearney
Nancy LaRocque
Ruth Luedke
Don MacKenzie

Kathy Panicek
Jean Pinski
Lee Pinski
Janice Richards
Ray Riel
Kim Riel

Christine Shea
David Trousdale
Jeannine Trousdale
Dayna Vinje
Chris Washer
Leslee Washer
Judy Williams


Community Supporters

Bill Adams • John & Carmen Adams • Alpine Village Market • Lanie Anton • Jim & Denise Archer • Richard & Carol Atkinson • Jerry & Sharan Baracker • Betsy & Bill Bayne • Bierstube • David & Mary Beth Blumhardt • Tom Bundy • William J Burg • L.T. & V. Grace Burgess • Mary Byron • Luther & Dorothy Campbell • Brian Carper • Larry & Helen Cates • Nick & Karen Chickering • Bruce Clark • John & Anne Collins • Keith Cook • C.E. "Dock" & Linda Cornutt • Jerry & Signe Devall • Dan & June Diamond • Dean Dorman • Noel Drury • Dave Duffy • Mike & Robin Farrens • Derek & Vanessa Faulkner • James D Fuller • William Fuller • Anita Garten • Robert Gersh • Brant Giovannetti • Dan Graves • Kristi Hanchett • Scott Hayman • C Heinbigner • Elinor Hess • Judy Hewson • Frank T. & N.M. Hinchy • Bill Hoadley • Patricia & Robert Jepsen • Jay Johnston • Mark Jones • Bill & Clemence Jones • Frank & Betty Sue Kearney • John & Maureen King • Rory Kiser • Tom & Cindy LaChance • Benny Lawrence • William Leady • Mark "Lucky" Loncar • Bret & Ruth Luedke • Mark & Katie Mance • Janet Mayo • McGarry’s Roadhouse • J Doug Medley • Jerry & Rhona Meislik • Chris & Abbie Milisci • Nathan J. & Phyllis Mistretta • R Matthew Moran • Andy & Deb Moshier • John Muhlfeld • Sandy & Steve Nogal • John E & Susan O'Donnell • Judith Palmer • Mark Panicek • Andrew Pease • Harry (Hap) & Pamela Peters • C. Kjell Petersen • Briar or Lisa & Gary or Marsha Purdy • Tom & Teresa Quinn • Linda & Leslie Rainwater • Joseph & Beverly Raudabaugh • Kim & Janice Richards • Arline & Kenneth Richter • Gary & Barbara Roberts • Harriet Rogers • Christopher P Ryan • David & Lisa Senior • Maryann Shea • Steve & Christine Shea • Paul H & Connie Silverman • Robert & Michelle Small • Mark & Laura Snider • David & Nancy Stokes • Tamarack Ski & Lake Shop • VFW & Aux. Post 276 • Michael & Leslie Warning • Alan & Boots Warrick • Chris & Leslee Washer • Yvonne Washer • Cindy Webb • Dan Weinberg • Sheila Welch • Ken & Byrdie Wessels • Steven & Ardyce Whisler • Whitefish Mountain Resort • David & Judy Williams • Betty B. Wise • Wirt & Linda Yerger